Second train to B.C. on track by autumn

Locke to sign funding that extends Amtrak run

A second daily Amtrak run from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., through Snohomish County appears likely, possibly as early as this summer.
Money to operate the second train to Canada is included in the massive transportation package approved by the Legislature last week, and now only needs the signature of Gov. Gary Locke. He is expected to sign today.

“We’re eager to get going, there’s a lot of demand, people want to go,” said Stan Suchan, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation’s rail office.

There are other benefits besides more service between here and Canada, however.

A second run will allow local passengers to make convenient daily connections to an Amtrak train running to Portland, Ore., he said. As it is now, the run from Canada to Oregon requires an overnight stay in Seattle.

Once it beings, the second Vancouver train will likely leave Canada early in the morning and, with stops in Everett and Edmonds, arrive in Seattle in time for a Portland run.

“Connecting service from Edmonds and Everett to Portland is very important to us,” Suchan said.

The equation is this: The more service offered, the greater the ridership, and eventually less dependence on automobiles, he said.

The state and Amtrak are negotiating now with the British Columbia government to begin the expanded daily service.

There is a chance the second train could begin July 1, “but I would rate that as slim,” Suchan said. A more likely timetable is fall at the latest.

Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Project and former Snohomish City Council member, also worked to start a second Amtrak train.

“For Everett, Edmonds and Snohomish County it will be a real benefit,” he said Wednesday. Someday there may even be a third Amtrak train to Vancouver, he said.

More Amtrak trains, and the arrival of Sound Transit commuter runs between Everett and Seattle by the summer of 2001, is creating a “rail culture,” he said.

“We’re building people’s experience of riding the train, both commuter and intercity,” he said. “It may help relieve congestion on I-5.”

Agnew’s Cascadia Project encourages the connection of high-speed passenger trains between Vancouver, B.C., and Eugene, Ore., to airports, ferries and local buses.

The state’s transportation budget inclues $6.3 million to operate the second Amtrak train and $4.2 million in track improvements. Amtrak and Burling Northern-Santa Fe will contribute $26 million for track safety improvements and train equipment, Suchan said.

The improvements include extending track siding in Whatcom County so freight trains can pull over and wait for passenger trains to pass.

Amtrak and the state are also working out agreements so there will be enough custom agents to handle a second train to Canada, Agnew said.